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Wave of criticism follows San Francisco DA's decision in Walgreens shooting

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

San Francisco's district attorney is facing a fierce backlash after declining to press charges this week against the Walgreens drug store security guard who shot and killed a man who was shoplifting from the store. From KQED in San Francisco, Marisa Lagos has our story.

MARISA LAGOS, BYLINE: The April 27 killing of Banko Brown by security guard Michael Anthony immediately sparked outrage in San Francisco, a city where brazen shoplifting has become a political flashpoint amid a fentanyl crisis and a widening chasm between the wealthy and impoverished. Video released Monday by prosecutors shows Brown, a Black transgender man who was homeless, being confronted by Anthony as Brown tries to leave the store with stolen goods. Security video footage shows a nearly minute-long struggle during which Anthony, who's also Black, has Brown in a headlock and lays on top of him. Anthony eventually lets him go. But as Brown is leaving, he turns around on the threshold of the doorway and gestures toward Anthony. At that point, Anthony shoots Brown once. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

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JOHN BURRIS: Outrageous, unconscionable act of violence on the part of the security officer. The facts from the video do not support the use of deadly force.

LAGOS: That's attorney John Burris, a civil rights lawyer representing Brown's family. He and other critics say Banko was not a threat and that the video shows Anthony, the security guard, as the aggressor. District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, though, says the video, which has no audio, isn't the only relevant evidence.

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BROOKE JENKINS: And that is why we must listen to the security guard's statement, the witness statements and everything else in order to look at the full picture of the incident.

LAGOS: Jenkins says she didn't believe prosecutors could prove a case against the security guard in court. Anthony told investigators that during the altercation, Brown said he had a knife and threatened to stab Anthony, though no weapon was found. And witnesses reported Brown spitting at Anthony and lunging back toward him as the shot was fired. Here's DA Jenkins.

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JENKINS: And at this time, there is nothing to rebut his statements regarding the fact that he acted in self-defense.

LAGOS: Jenkins has been under pressure to release the video and other evidence in the case for weeks ever since announcing on May 1 that her office wouldn't charge Anthony. Following outcry, she reversed course and said charges were still under consideration. On Monday, she released a slew of evidence, including the security video, as she declined to file charges again. Instead of quelling criticism, though, that evidence seems to have raised more questions. County Supervisor Aaron Peskin is asking state and federal officials to investigate Brown's shooting.

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AARON PESKIN: This is not who we are. Stealing a bag of candy does not warrant what is, in essence, the death penalty. I don't think that the district attorney's behavior in this case is making San Francisco safer.

LAGOS: Jenkins was already a divisive figure in San Francisco. She was appointed DA by San Francisco's mayor after helping lead a heated recall campaign to oust her progressive predecessor. That campaign helped shaped a national narrative of San Francisco as a city where crime and open-air drug use are out of control. And Jenkins has received criticism in recent months for dismissing charges against police officers involved in on-duty shootings. But as San Francisco struggles to figure out how to rein in shoplifting, the repercussions of Brown's death could reach far beyond this case. Members of the transgender community here continue to express anger. Honey Mahogany, chair of the local Democratic Party, notes trans people are far more likely to be impoverished and homeless.

HONEY MAHOGANY: The reality is that this could have been any number of people. Every one of us has had a low point. And to think that, you know, in that moment of vulnerability and in that moment of trying to survive, that you could be shot dead.

LAGOS: For now, protests continue. And Burris, the Brown family attorney, plans to file suit against the security firm that employed Anthony and Walgreens. For NPR News, I'm Marisa Lagos in San Francisco.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Marisa Lagos